WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed reports on Monday that the president was entertaining the idea of making a big speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- the very same entity the White House accused of subverting democracy during the 2010 elections.
Asked about reports that the president would appear before the business lobby, Gibbs acknowledged that there was interest within the administration, though nothing had been firmly scheduled to date.
"In terms of invitations from the Chamber obviously we are and continue to be interested in speaking with them and their members and we will see if the schedule allows for that in the beginning of the year," he said.
Gibbs hinted that a date for such a speech had been set for sometime in December but that the date had been pushed back until after the turn of the calendar.
Late last week, CNN reported that the Chamber had plans in place to invite Obama to headline its job summit, which had initially been planned for December but was being pushed to January.
"The president is always welcome at the Chamber," the senior Chamber official told CNN's Ed Henry. "It can be done, frankly, very quickly if they want to do it. We would be very open to that."
That Obama would be willing to engage the group says something both about his temperament and his desire to patch up his relationship with the business community. The president and his advisers railed against the Chamber during the closing months of the 2010 elections, accusing the group of using secret donors to essentially run corporate-funded campaigns against Democratic candidates. And while rapproachment has been attempted post-election, administration officials still bristled when it was reported that the Chamber had taken in $86 million in donations from private health insurers to defeat Obama's health care reform.
"People in this administration talk to [Chamber CEO Tom Donohue]," White House senior adviser David Axelrod told The Huffington Post in an interview several weeks back. "People in the administration talk to other members of the board. We have good relations with some members; some are hostile. But what we need to do is pursue a pro-growth agenda. We may differ on some issues and they will make their political decisions in the future. But we are going to work individually with businesses wherever we can to help grow jobs and prosperity."
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